207. Memorandum From the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger) to President Nixon 1


  • Reduction in Number of Military Attachés Overseas

Late in February, I informed the Under Secretaries Committee of your desire to make further cuts in the number of military attachés abroad.2 These cuts were to be considered by a task force already set [Page 440] up to study military representation abroad and a report made to you by May 1.

I have received a memorandum from the Deputy Secretary of Defense dated March 273 which states the Defense Department’s position that it would not appear in the best interests of the United States Government to make further reductions in the military attaché system at this time because:

  • —As we consider further reductions in the strength of our armed forces overseas, intelligence collection activities become increasingly important.
  • —While it is true that we place heavy emphasis on more sophisticated intelligence collection, in many areas of the non-communist world the more valuable contributions are made by attachés on the ground.
  • —The normal attaché collection is devoted to maintaining a data base of encyclopedic information, of which 30–40 percent is provided uniquely through the attaché system.
  • —Attachés have a host of representational responsibilities which frequently pay off with side benefits in intelligence information.
  • —Since 1965, there has been a 46 percent reduction in the number of military attachés. Further reductions should be suspended until we have an opportunity to evaluate the impact of previous reductions on the capabilities of the attaché system.
  • Arguing against the Defense position are the following factors:
  • —Much of the intelligence collected by military attachés, which is often (as Mr. Packard points out) encyclopedic in nature, appears to be of marginal value to decision makers in Washington and the field.
  • —The intelligence collected by attachés often duplicates that collected by other means.
  • —Some attaché functions can be performed by military commands.
  • —Many ambassadors have expressed doubts about the quality and overall value of military attaché reporting and believe further cuts could be made in the number of attachés in their missions.
  • —The military attaché system will be cut only 2.3 percent under OPRED as compared with a 10 percent overall reduction.
  • —The OPRED cuts are concentrated in two areas of the world (Europe and East Asia) and affect very few countries.


On the whole, I agree with Mr. Packard’s assessment and recommend that you suspend further reductions in the number of military attachés.

[Page 441]

It seems clear, however, that steps need to be taken to upgrade the quality of attachés in any event. If you agree, I will transmit a directive to this effect.4

  1. Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 372, Presidential Directive on Reduction of U.S. Personnel Overseas. Secret; Sensitive; Nodis. Sent for action.
  2. In a January 9, memorandum to Kissinger, Nixon noted that Ambassador Walter Annenberg had urged a cut in the number of military aides in Embassies abroad. Nixon agreed and requested Kissinger to study how to lower the number. He concluded that the intelligence supplied by military aides stationed overseas was “pretty thin.” (Ibid., White House Central Files, Subject Files, FG 11)
  3. A copy is ibid., NSC Files, Subject Files, Box 372, Presidential Directive on Reduction of U.S. Personnel Overseas.
  4. The President approved both recommendations. Kissinger informed Packard in a May 26 memorandum that Nixon had agreed to suspend further personnel reductions in the military attaché system but that he requested “every possible effort be made to upgrade the quality of attachés.” (Ibid.)